ANTHONY KOMARA – UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA-HUNTSVILLE MEN’S ASSISTANT BASKETBALL COACH – EPISODE 359

Anthony Komara

Website – https://uahchargers.com/sports/mens-basketball

Email – aek0008@uah.edu

Twitter – @CoachKomara

Anthony Komara is entering his seventh season as an assistant at University of Alabama-Huntsville working under Head Coaches Lennie Acuff & John Shulman.
 
During Komara’s time in Huntsville, the Chargers have reached the NCAA tournament four times including hosting a pair of South Regionals in which the team reached the regional final, have won two Gulf South Conference tournament titles, and have captured a pair of GSC regular season crowns.
 
With Komara on the staff, UAH has produced five All-South Region performers and 10 All-GSC selections, and two Chargers have been selected to play in the Division II All-Star Game during that time period.
 
Komara began his coaching career as a student-assistant video coordinator at Auburn in the 2009-10 season.

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Get ready to learn from the experiences of Anthony Komara, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

What We Discuss with Anthony Komara

  • His Dad’s AAU program and how the game became a part of his life
  • His process for evaluating players at an AAU tournament
  • He looks for three things in players in he recruits: Fit, Feel , and Love for the Game
  • Placing a premium on shooting
  • Feel and Vision are two key traits that lead to success as a player
  • Why scoring a bunch of points in an AAU Game won’t get his attention, but making smart, unselfish plays will
  • Emphasizing the fundamentals every day during practice
  • Why the ability to cut is so important to success in the UAH system
  • You are what you emphasize
  • Smart players in today’s game always want to know why
  • Don’t get bored with the basics
  • You have to learn to do it right before you do it at game speed
  • Practice progressions so their team is playing their best basketball at the end of the season
  • Varying up the drills they use to work on basic fundamentals
  • Why attention to detail is critical to success
  • Developing leaders in the program so that older players can coach and lead the younger players both on and off the court
  • Building a culture of high accountability among coaches and players
  • Why investing in player’s lives off the court is so important
  • What he looks for when watching a player with his high school team: How does he play in a system? How is he with less talented players? Does he give the ball up? Is he coachable?
  • What he looks for when watching a player with his AAU team: How does he play with other good players? How does he react to not not always having the ball? How does he react to playing less? How does he warm up / prepare for the game?
  • Building relationships with High School Coaches & AAU Coaches
  • Using social media to discover and find out more about potential recruits
  • The need to do something that separates you and makes you stand out
  • The increased skill level of players today and the impact that has had on recruiting
  • His early influences in coaching
  • Working as an assistant video coordinator at Auburn while he was going to school
  • Getting 200 applications for a job opening this year at UAH and how competitive it is to break into college coaching
  • Show up every day, be the first one there and the last to leave
  • If you have a servant attitude, you’ll find a way to move up
  • Why being a life long learner is so important
  • There are two kind of coaches, those that are humble and those that are about to be
  • Eating meals with your players to build relationships and get to know them off the floor
  • The danger of having a talented player that doesn’t fit in or isn’t coachable
  • The challenge of competing against other great coaches
  • The joy of impacting kids every day as a college coach

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THANKS, ANTHONY KOMARA

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TRANSCRIPT FOR ANTHONY KOMARA – UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA-HUNTSVILLE MEN’S ASSISTANT BASKETBALL COACH – EPISODE 359

[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my c-host Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast from the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Anthony Komara. Anthony, welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast.

Anthony Komara: [00:00:12] How’s it going? Appreciate you guys having me on, I’m really excited to do this.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:17] It’s going very well, obviously, just like you we’re all kind of waiting around for the opportunity to get back onto a basketball court and actually do some playing or coaching or parenting, whatever our particular role is. And so it’s been interesting to say the least. We want to go back in time to when you were a kid and talk to us a little bit about how you got into the game of basketball.

What are maybe some of your earliest memories of the game?

Anthony Komara: [00:00:42] Okay. well, growing up, as early as I can remember, I was playing basketball. My dad, as most coaches, this is kind of the same as with most of their stories, but, my dad got me into it. He played in college. he, actually ran a pretty big, [00:01:00] Hey you organization, for the majority of my childhood through high school for me.

So, that was really how I got into it. I was always around it. his program had high level players, so we were traveling all the time. and I grew up in a gym and I know a lot of kids that, that ended up playing baseball, grow up on a baseball field, playing little league and doing all that stuff.

And for me, it wasn’t, I wasn’t on a field. I was just in a basketball gym all the time and I was always shooting and I was always around players, always around coaches. and that’s just how I grew up. So. you know, a lot of basketball coaches will tell you that right. In the gym, and I’m sure you get, I’m sure you guys work too.

And, and that’s kinda how I got started and it was. There was never a question for me. This is, this was always what I was going to do.

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:45] Was your dad always on the AAU side of things? Did he previously coach at a high school? How did he get into AAU basketball? How did he get his organization started?

Anthony Komara: [00:01:53] That’s a great question. he was always really plugged in with, with high school basketball in Huntsville [00:02:00] and, in high school basketball and Huntsville is really big, it’s a little pocket of Alabama where it’s really, really storied. I mean, we’ve had some really good players come out of here over the years.

And, and, my dad played at UAH and, Alabama – Huntsville, and he, And really, really just built that from there and met people through it. And there was really good players in Huntsville at the time and, kind of joined up and it became kind of a Southeast region, a team, and they were on the shoe circuit.

They were with, I mean, they were with Nike then Adidas and Reebok. So, built it up pretty big and. And, that’s kinda how it all got going. It was, it was a long process, but it was fun. It was fun to grow up around it. No, not doing it anymore, but, but he did it for a long time and he was, he was all in with it.

I mean, it was every weekend. And then we were all around. We’re all over the place. We were all over the country. We were in Vegas. We were in LA. I mean, I was growing up [00:03:00] watching LeBron and Carmelo and those guys play and I remember Tyson Chandler, all those guys watching them play.

It was really, really cool. Like the Lopez brothers who were playing and right now they. Those teams play against them. So it was, it was fun to be around and, you know, see these guys all and see all these college coaches. And, I remember sitting by Rick Pitino watching him while he was recruiting and I didn’t know what the heck was going on, but I knew that was pretty cool.  It was, you know, anybody who grows up in an environment like that, that they don’t realize how good they have it when they’re around those guys and get to be around it all the time. Now I really, really do appreciate the opportunity that my dad gave me to let me grow up there. You know, you got, you got me early here.

Jason Sunkle:  You got me a question, Robin Lopez. Did he hate mascots back then too?

Anthony Komara: I can, I can neither confirm nor deny that. but I know he was really good. I know that

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:57] Good thing. You weren’t the mascot of your dad’s program. You might’ve been in trouble seriously.

[00:04:00] Anthony Komara: [00:03:59] Yeah.

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:03] I think at the peak of your dad’s program, like how many teams did he have?

Anthony Komara: [00:04:07] Oh, man. well, here’s the way he structured it. And I know a lot of that whole, when we could go into a whole thing on the hay on how it has changed and grown, I mean, that’s summer ball is huge now, and there’s so many more teams than there used to be. but the way he structured it was, he just had his, his main team, like his shoe team.

And then. There would be other, other groups that would kind of be under the umbrella that would use the name and all that play. But I mean, there were probably eight, eight teams at most, at one time, but the main focus was on that was on that top team with the 17 year old or 17 other guys.

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:48] Yeah. Well, what do you remember about how he went about, I guess, competing or getting players?

You obviously said that, Hey, you, the structure has changed and clearly. Depending on how many years you want to go back? Not as [00:05:00] many kids were planning and there weren’t as many groups and teams as there are today. Just maybe talk a little bit about how your day I went about getting the players to be a part of his program.

Anthony Komara: [00:05:09] I mean, I was so young. I really wasn’t super involved, but I mean, he was, to me, it was almost like he was recruiting like, like we do for, for college guys. I mean, he had to go out and try and get the best players. I remember him driving to Memphis to meet Zach Randolph.

I mean, stuff like that. So, I mean, Yeah, and I was little, but it was from what he tells me. I mean, it was a lot like what we do now. but again, back then you had to get, you had to get the best of the best. And you had, there weren’t a ton of kids that were playing it that summer ball. I mean, you had kids are playing with our hospitals, but there wasn’t a lot of going on.

I mean, it was, it was some really high level stuff. And now, I mean, it seems like every event I go to there’s hundreds of teams. I mean, from what I [00:06:00] remember, then it wasn’t like that. All

Mike Klinzing: [00:06:02] right. Let’s jump into this question. I know we’re kind of fast forwarding, but I want to ask it to you. Cause we’re talking to you here.

When you go and you look at as a college assistant coach and you’re going out on the recruiting trail and you’re going to look at players in an AAU tournament, AAU type setting. What are some of the things that. You look for, and then just talk a little bit about how you maybe have already identified the guys you’re going to watch, or how often are you going in discovering somebody maybe you hadn’t seen before that you’re just sitting down and watching a game.

Maybe you’re trying to see somebody else, or maybe you’re watching a game in between the games of players that you had already identified that you want to see. Just talk a little bit about what it’s like for you as an assistant college coach sitting there at a tournament. What does your day look like?

Anthony Komara: [00:06:46] Right. So I. And just like anybody, any of these guys that go recruit. I mean, I try to get there when the first game starts, because yes, we have our schedule and I, and I’ve got the guys I’m planning on seeing the [00:07:00] guys I’m already, that are already on my board, but I mean, I want to get there early and, and even if it’s not a guy, the guy I’m watching doesn’t play till nine.

I’m going to watch the eight o’clock game just to make sure that I don’t overlook somebody because you never know. when, you know, a guy that you need to recruit is flying under the radar, playing with a team that, that isn’t, you know, highly noted that people aren’t watching. I want to get there and make sure I’m watching those guys just to at least mark them off the list, you know, make sure I’ve seen that scene, especially right.

This came from, from our region, which for us, I mean, we recruit, we recruit a bunch of States, but I mean, most of our guys are, from the Southeast, we’ve got one Missouri guy. but other than that, I mean, we’re, we we’re Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky. We’ve had Indiana guys, Florida guys, but no, the way we really do it is I’ve got my idea of who I want to see.

But, I’m looking for guys that are just better, just different, guys that are like, like light bulbs out there. [00:08:00] and, and it’s hard to quantify that. But you almost know when you see it. the way we recruit, I mean, we, we recruit for, we look for three things and that’s fit, feel, and love for the game.

So guys that fit us and, and to be honest, and I’m sure we’ll get to this when we talk about my time here at UAA, but, and so not to jump ahead too much, but my view of recruiting and what we’re looking for has drastically changed. since I started out here, has been, when I got here, I was like, all right, let’s look for the guy who, who jumps the highest and the most talented guy.

Well, that may not always be the guy that’s the best fit for what we do. So I have a much better view of what I’m looking for now, which makes getting back to this mix, going out to recruit a lot easier because I know exactly what I’m looking for.

Mike Klinzing: [00:08:55] No, it makes total sense. I think what I loved about what you said, and it’s something that I’ve said to [00:09:00] people all the time and you just described it as you kind of know it when you see it.

And I always describe it as I feel like I could walk into a gym and I can watch a game and be watching for five minutes, 10 minutes. And I can tell you which kids are playing basketball. And I can tell you if there’s a basketball player out there and. There’s just a difference. And the kid was the basketball player.

He might’ve missed before shots that he took in the time that I was watching that. But, you know, there’s just something different about a player who knows how to play. And I think that goes to kind of what you’re describing is you might not be able to put your finger on it exactly. And give somebody an exact description of what you’re talking about, but somebody who knows the game can go into a gym.

You could sit down and you can go. That’s the best player in the gym. Now he might not have played the best in this last five minutes, but just by his basketball IQ, the way he moves out on the floor, the ways interacting with his teammates, all those different things to me goes into what makes somebody a basketball player, as opposed [00:10:00] to a kid just playing basketball.

I think that’s kind of. What you were describing, which I think is a great way to look at it because ultimately when you have guys who are basketball players, that allows you to overcome maybe the fact that you can’t touch the top of the square, or you’re not going to run a four, three 40, there are just some things that you can overcome with your savvy and your field for the game, your IQ.

Now that’s not to say that those other things don’t help. It clearly, clearly, if you can get both, then you really have something, but you did talk a little bit about it. I know when we had John for the webinar and you talked about the way that you guys run your offense. And for those who don’t know, they’re running a Princeton system down there at UAH, and you talked a lot about finding guys that can do the things that.

You want them to do within your offense? So maybe just talk a little bit about that now. What are the kinds of things, the skills that you’re looking for, both tangible and intangible in a player that you’re going to recruit?

Anthony Komara: [00:10:57]  Right. Well, [00:11:00] I’ll say this and, and we talked about this when I was on with you last time, but, it’s a really, really hard game.

If you can’t shoot. and the way we play and at Huntsville, we want five guys out there that can shoot. We think it stretches the floor, opens up driving lanes, even for guys that maybe normally wouldn’t be able to get by their guy. It helps them get by their guy. if you can shoot, it adds quickness to your game because, because your defender’s closing out harder on you.

We value shooting, shooting, shooting as a high premium for us. other than that feel and vision to us or to me, I think those are the two hardest things to coach. I think those are really hard things to teach. honestly, like guys, you hear coaches always say that, you know, When I had a 6-10 guy that got 6-10, every time you walked in the gym, they have a five, 10 guy.

They’re not getting any taller. I feel like, feel and vision fall into that category. Like you either have it or you don’t. And that’s why we try to take care of that [00:12:00] on the front end with our recruiting, we really are our office. I mean, as we talked about, and you know, it’s a lot of reads, So there’s a bunch of ball screens in handoffs where you’ve got to know what, what the defense is doing.

And that’s not just your guy. That’s not just the screeners man, but that’s the help behind it. So if you don’t have feel envision, it’s going to be really hard for you to read the defense, the right place. We got to have five guys out there that can pass dribble and shoot. If we’re going to be really good in what we do.

so that’s, that’s huge for us. Absolutely. I mean, that’s essential. We’ve had guys that are really, really talented that have come here that don’t have the feel that don’t have the, and they can’t play. It’s just, and that doesn’t make them a bad player. It just makes them not the right fit for us, if that makes sense at all for us.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:52] Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. I think when you start talking about what makes your job easier as a coach, when you have [00:13:00] somebody who has a great feel and can see the things that you want them to be able to see out on the floor, it just makes your job as a coach so much easier. It gives you so many more options of things that you can do and more sophistic, more sophistication that you can put into your offense because.

You can just have those players out there making reads, and it’s not a matter of the coach saying, alright, you go here, then go there and do this and do that instead. It’s look, you can come here. And then there’s five different options that you can read off of what your player, you know, what the defender is doing or what the weak side defense is doing or what your teammate is doing.

And without a feel for the game, that becomes really, really difficult. And I think you make a great point in that. It’s something that. It’s very hard to teach. I think anybody who’s played basketball at any level, even if you never played an organized game of basketball in your life, but you played pickup basketball, you get a sense of quickly.

I always tell people I can play with somebody for like 30 seconds and know whether or not I ever [00:14:00] want to be on this person.

You can walk out on the floor. It’d be like this dude just doesn’t he just doesn’t get it. Like he doesn’t know, right? He doesn’t know when to pass. He doesn’t know when to cut. He doesn’t know how to defend anybody there’s clueless and he might have great skill. Like he might have tremendous skill in terms of being able to put the ball between his legs and handle it and shoot it and whatever.

But. I say it all the time. There’s guys that I just, I would walk away from immediately and never want to play, play with them again. I think that goes to what you’re describing is you want a team of 12 or 15 guys that if you were picking them up in a pickup game, you’d be like, look, I can win with this dude because he gets the game and he understands it.

And that makes complete sense to me. I think too often. Coaches get caught up in, get caught up in measurables and you know, you can see why, I mean, you could see how tantalizing it is to have a guy that’s super quick and athletic and can jump out of the gym and all those are things that.

[00:15:00] Clearly helped you to have success as a basketball player, but those guys can also sometimes be frustrating if they don’t have the feel, just like a player is not athletically talented. It doesn’t have a feel, it can be frustrating. And so I love the idea of setting up your system and then finding guys that fit that system, which obviously at the college level, you have the ability to do.

Anthony Komara: [00:15:21]  Right, which is, and this is what’s so crazy about and kind of getting back to the AAU thing is that these kids, a lot of kids, I won’t say all of them, a lot of kids think and probably their parents tell them, well, you got to go out there and score a bunch of points for these college coaches to notice you.

And that could not be further from the truth for me. Like I’m sitting there and I can’t tell you, and this is going to sound crazy. I can’t tell you how excited I get when I see a kid drive it and just kick it to the corner, like just simple place or drive it and [00:16:00] drive it land onto and play behind. Oh my gosh.

When I see that, that’s when I’m like, okay, I want that dude.

Mike Klinzing: [00:16:07] This is how I know the game has changed because that play you’ve just described. And I’ve said this on a couple other podcasts, but I think it’s worth repeating here driving in towards the basket and then jump, stopping and pivoting and passing the ball almost behind me.

I think it all the years that I played basketball, I don’t think I ever made that pass. Like almost never. I mean, maybe I did at some point, but it certainly was not something that I was ever consciously. Working on or aware of, or you just look at the game from 15 or 20 years ago, and those ways that now we rely on heavily, whether it’s, you know, screening role or whether it’s driving yeah.

Or drive and fill behind, like, those things just did not exist in the game of balance. Well, 20 years ago. And so it’s so amazing to me when you watch today’s game, just how different it [00:17:00] is. And I think how skilled some of the players are for sure.

Anthony Komara: [00:17:04] Oh, it’s insane. Like the skill level now. I mean, just in the game, the game, the Heat and the Bucks.

I mean, those guys can all dribble pass and shoot. It’s crazy. And, but it’s to us, like we hammer that stuff home all day in practice. I mean, in the film room land on two, play behind drive and kick. If you get too low and you’re driving it at the corner, don’t pass it to a corner.

Play behind, make sure you cut in at the right time. That’s the stuff that we coach and. Very rarely do we talk about it, guys. We got to make shots like, well, we know that everybody wants to make shots. We want our guys to make shots too, but we know they’re also not trying to miss them. I mean, so the stuff we coach and look for in guys is probably not what kids go into these AAU games, thinking that they have to do to get noticed.  If that makes sense

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:58] I think that [00:18:00] makes a lot of sense. And I think it goes to the mindset of. Let’s just say, let’s just use the word, the average player by average, I don’t mean average in terms of skill level, but I just mean in terms of. When you think about what an AAU player or a high school player thinks or what people value.

So often they value how many points do you score again? What’s the first question that anybody asks you after a game. If you’re a player, your mom, your dad, your uncle, your friend, know how many points you score, and it doesn’t have anything to do with some of these other skills that you’ve been talking about it.

So clearly we can see why players value and why their mindset is that. I need to score points in order to get noticed. And you can understand where that comes from. And yet at the same time, I think it goes back to what we said a little bit earlier that you described it as a field. And I described it as somebody as being a player.

Well, I think that that is something that has nothing to do with, I mean, if I see somebody bang home for three easy, I might notice that if they go four for four and the five minutes I’m in the gym that might catch my attention. And I’m going to, I’m going [00:19:00] to look at that carefully, but to me, that’s not necessarily as translatable as if I see a kid play for 10 minutes.

And during that 10 minutes, he makes the right play. 98% of the time. To me, that’s more translatable to what they’re going to perform as, as opposed to somebody getting on a hot streak and making four threes. Now, again, like I said, you’re certainly going to keep an eye on that, but I think, I think the floor game is more translatable than a hot streak of shooting while the college coaches in the gym.

Anthony Komara: [00:19:31] Oh, no doubt. No doubt, and that’s stuff that we look at. I mean, we want guys that can shoot that’s really important, but the guys that we have and have had that haven’t been, haven’t been there best shooters. Those guys that have been really good for us are they have elite feel and vision that can really pass and they’re unbelievable cutters.

And I think being a great cutter, I don’t think you can be a great cutter without having great vision and feel. So [00:20:00] that’s, that’s huge for us. And obviously we, when we went through all of our stuff, last month that we, you guys saw, or you saw how, how much, how important cutting is to our system? I mean, it’s everything.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:13] Yeah. If you can’t cut and you don’t know where to be on the floor, put your team, you’re putting your team in a hole for sure. And making it difficult for you to be able to. Be able to do things, especially again, when you think about how important spacing has become in today’s game and the fact that you want to keep the defensive spread out, to make it much more difficult for them to guard and be able to use the three point line to your advantage and all those things, if you can’t cut and I’ve always maintained.

And I’m one of the things that drives me crazy, kind of about high school basketball, I watch sometimes. Teams will try to run whether it’s a five out or maybe a four out one in, or maybe they run in some version of a Princeton, but they just don’t have high school players just, I don’t necessarily cut hard or sometimes they just don’t cut it all.

And it ends up being five players standing outside the three points line, taking turns, going one on [00:21:00] one to the next player. And so what I like about what you guys have done and what you see. And more sophisticated college offenses as you combine the best of that, where yeah. You still have the ability to put it on the floor and drive and penetrate the defense and draw, help and kick.

But then not only that, but you also have constant movement away from the ball. And I think this is one of the things that Jason I’ve talked about this a lot when it relates to the Houston rockets and watching James harden play and, you know, Harden is an unbelievably skilled basketball player, and he’s just, I mean, it’s, it’s unbelievable, but we always say, would you want to play with them? And the answer is I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to just stay in there and never move. And then when he does give the ball up 90% of the time, then he just stands there. And to me, it’s like, man, if you could just get him moving and get his teammates, moving a little bit combined with the athleticism and the skill that he has, then you’d really, really have something.

And so I think that goes to what we’re talking about here is if you have PE players that can cut. And [00:22:00] understand the game. Now you open up this whole world of things that wouldn’t be available to you. If you didn’t have players that were intuitive in terms of their ability to cut to the basket, right?

Anthony Komara: [00:22:08]  For sure. And you know, as far as coaching goes, we, you are what you emphasize, right? Your team is always going to be what you emphasize the most. And we spend the first 45 minutes, 30 to 45 at least of every practice working on. And this isn’t just exclusive to our Princeton stuff. We work on. Drive and kick a pitch and chase where to go when the ball is driven, breakdown stuff every single day.

I mean, every day at the beginning of practice, we work on cutting. We work on our footwork when we cut, showing hands when we cut, I mean, that’s stuff that we drill into those guys from the very first, second, they start their career here in practice. And through the red shirt year, most of them, we have one guy in our program right now that didn’t red shirt which is a huge advantage for us as well. that I know a lot of high school coaches don’t get the [00:23:00] the benefit of, but back to my point, we were working on this stuff and we emphasize it all the time. So by the time our guys are sophomores and juniors and they’re playing, they get pretty good at it.

And then when you add that, so three, four or five years of working on it too. The recruiting piece of the fact that these guys already had vision and feel when they got here, that’s when you get really special. And then you have five guys on the floor that can do it. You are  really hard to guard.

Mike Klinzing: [00:23:28] So how do you, when you’re doing that with, with guys and you’re in, you’re working and you’re drilling those fundamentals and you’re doing those basics over and over again, and we all know how important that is to success.

How much time do you guys spend talking about the why of, Hey, we got to cut with our hands up or, Hey, this is the kind of foot work that we need to have when we’re making this particular move out on the floor. How much of the, why are you sharing with the players and how much of the wide you think they want maybe compared to even when you started?

Anthony Komara: [00:23:57] Oh, okay, great. And that’s an [00:24:00] unbelievable question all the time is the answer we, and that’s. I won’t say it’s a downside, but if it’s a caveat to that, having really, really smart kids, which we have to recruit smart kids at our school. and we’re lucky that we get to, because they’re great to be around and they make good players, but.

That’s part of them being so smart is they want to know why, like they, they do, they do, how much of it do they want? How much of the, why do they want, they want all of the why’s. They want to know exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing. So in a way, that’s made me a better coach. It’s made us better coaches here because you have to teach it and if they don’t understand it, And they don’t understand why they’re doing it.

They’re going to kind of look at you sideways a little bit, then that’s not to say that they’re not going to listen. They’re not coachable, but that’s how their brains work. They have to know why. And to me, when they do understand why then they really get it and they’re really going to do it right every time.

[00:25:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:25:03] Just the way that basketball again has changed in the last 25 or 30 years where you have more of that give and take between players and coaches, which I think is a really good thing for. Both sides of that equation. You go back 25, 30 years ago. You think of the Bobby Knight school of coaching, and it’s my way, or it’s the highway and you’re a player.

I’m a coach. And you do what you’re told. And so many, many of us that are my age. I’m 50. Now that that’s kind of what you remember both from a planning standpoint, that’s what you kind of remember from early in your coaching career and. You always thought, Hey, that’s the way I have to do it if I want to be successful.

And now you start to see, and as you look more around, what’s happening now, and you see how people have changed the interaction between players and coaches. And it’s not to say that there still isn’t that respect for authority, as you said that not that the players aren’t coachable, but I think there’s more of a give and take.

[00:26:00] And to me as a coach, I always feel like that if you can take into account what the players are seeing and what they’re asking. You’re going to learn something as a coach, and that’s ultimately going to benefit you as a staff and as a team. Do you see that with your players?  

Anthony Komara: [00:26:15] Oh, for sure. I think that’s so important though, because if you’re going to teach something, then it’s really important that you understand it and you better be able to answer questions.

The question of why am I doing this? Or what, why are we doing this? What are we getting out of this? Does this translate to what we’re doing overall? And I think it’s really important to make sure that you can convey to them how it relates to the overall picture. So we do a lot of one on one, two on o three on o breakdown stuff out of our offense and out of just, you know, attack shooting is what we call it, but like learning how to play, where to go when the ball is driven. And when we introduce it, a lot of times  we’ll bring coaches out there to be the [00:27:00] other two or three guys, just to make sure that ever, because all these guys are, you know, a lot of them are visual learners and they want to see, okay.

Alright. So when I’m filling up behind this cut, but in the drill, a lot of times that cutters out there, so they want to see how it all comes together. And I think that’s really important. And I love that they do that because that shows me number one, that they’re engaged. Number two, they’re locked in.

And then finally, number three, that they understand what we’re, what we’re really trying to accomplish here. So they’re going to go hard without understanding. Cause if you’re thinking too much, while you’re doing this stuff, your legs, aren’t going to move really fast, your feet, aren’t going to move fast.

So it’s important to us that they understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. Before we start really going hard and you know, everybody says, game speed. You know, we love game speed, but we want to know for sure that these guys understand what we’re doing. And another thing that kinda goes back to the original question about this stuff that we do is we, I mean, we, and we, this one thing we really tell them a lot, [00:28:00] is don’t get bored with the basics.

Like I think way too often players, in coaches for sure. And I’ve been at fault of this is, is that we, we want to get ahead and we feel like we’re not accomplished accomplishing enough if, if we’re not doing making things so complex. And I mean the basics when, and it’s proven time after time. And I just think that’s so important.

And we, we tell our guys that all the time, like, Don’t get bored with the basics. We do this every day for a reason. And then by the time we get to March and we’re playing our best basketball, it’s because we’ve done it all year and we’ve done the, we’ve worried about the biggest things all year. We don’t chase that other stuff.

We hammer down the meat and potatoes and that’s what we do. And I think that pays off towards the end of the year. I think that’s one reason we play well at the end.

Mike Klinzing: [00:28:52] All right. So let me ask you something about that. I always find this to be sort of a fascinating. I don’t know, split [00:29:00] when you start thinking about how to do this, cause obviously the basics, the fundamentals are all key and are all very important.

And yet at the same time, you can understand whether it’s as a player, as a coach, that you probably need some variants in order to keep it fresh. We’re working on those basic and fundamental skills. So how much time do you guys as a staff? Think about or design your practices around, okay. We need to work on skill X, but for the last three days, we’ve worked on skill X using this particular drill, or we’ve done it in this particular way.

We need to figure out a way to work on the same skill, but present it to the players in a different way. So it’s fresh. And so we’re not just. Getting so stale that it becomes where we’re not even concentrating. We’re just kind of rolly going through the motions. How much time you spend trying to make sure you vary up what it is that you do when you’re working on those basic skills.

Anthony Komara: [00:29:51] Right. And that’s a daily, that’s a daily conversation. We have pre practice, in our practice planning. but an example of that would be, we [00:30:00] work on finishing every day. So I don’t know how familiar you are with like the Doug Novak finishing school stuff. but it’s basically to summarize it and try and summarize it, at its very base.

You’ve got a coach at the passer on like the second half and, your players, you’ve got three players lined up at the free throw line. They toss the coach to the ball. He catches it, the player catches it lands onto and performs the finish. And so we drill that a lot and we call that finishing school.

Well, when we want to work on finishing and we’ve done finishing school a couple of days in a row, we’ll move those guys out to the wing and we’ll have a coach at the top and he’ll pass it. When our emphasis that day will be catch with your eyes up. Make sure you shot, stop, sit down and then drive it through the slot to the other side.

And then we’re working on our finishing. From there, that’s the same stuff we emphasize in finishing school. You got to apply that to this drill now, so then we’ll do that. And then maybe the next day we’ll do it in the full court setting, [00:31:00] but we’re still working on that basic stuff, just in a different drill.If that makes sense.

Mike Klinzing: [00:31:06] Oh, it totally does. And that’s, I think what I was getting at is just the need for coaches out there to make sure that yeah, you might want to work on this particular skill, but you have to be. Creative enough slash inventive enough slash being willing to steal enough that you have a wide repertoire of drill drills to be able to do the same to rep those same skills, but just doing it in a different, different way.

So it stays fresh for the players, but for you as a coach, so that you keep your own mind and your own eyes fresh, that you’re seeing the things that you need to see in order to correct players that, you know, if they’re getting out of line, I think sometimes when. You do the same thing over and over again, it becomes really easy to overlook some of the details, both as a player and as a coach, because you just thought we’ve seen this drill, we’ve done it.

You know, we’ve been doing it every day at the beginning of practice and it just kind of becomes more automatic as [00:32:00] opposed to, Hey, I’m really trying to break down the details of what it is that I’m trying to do and sort of go along with that. When you guys were working on a particular cut or a particular movement or a particular skill, how much?

Especially at the beginning, let’s say with the guys who were first coming into your program, how much time you spend on, I’m going to use the word micro skills on the smallest little details of the foot work and where you have to get on the floor and the technique. How much time do you guys spend on that initially with players who were coming into your program?

Anthony Komara: [00:32:32] That’s everything to us and it’s all in the details. I was talking with our, our starting point guard today. He’s gonna, he’s going into his fourth year starting. and he, this is funny that you say that we’ve, we’re talking today about it. And he was telling, he was saying, I thought it was a hard worker in high school and paid a lot, paid attention to the details.

And then. But as I’ve gone through high school coming here now going into my fifth year, he’s like, I [00:33:00] had no idea how important the details were until we started doing stuff in practice. And then I would get basically hammered because I wasn’t doing it exactly. Right. And at first, and I didn’t really understand, but now this kid is the one that’s getting onto the freshmen for not for not stepping the right way on their cut.

Or their pace not being exactly perfect or their change of pace on a cut, not being great or their foot work, not being good, getting it like working into a shot. so what’s really cool is yes. At the beginning we, we hammer it down and we, and we micro manage that, that every single detail, but as the year goes on and as these, these players careers goes on, they’re the ones who coach the young guys on that and hold them accountable because I’m like, We have, we have three now, four coaches. but we’re not, we’re not at every goal. Like when I’m coaching, when I’m [00:34:00] going, taking us through our offensive stuff. At the beginning of practice, I may be on one goal with another freshmen or another player.

Well, I don’t know what’s going on behind me. So we really gotta make sure that our older guys are helping our young guys. And that’s what I mean. That’s what our program’s built on is the old guys helped the young guys. You bring them on because you’re passing the torch to them. And again, It all comes full circle.

I think a lot of that goes back to recruiting, I just do. I think that’s the most important thing in our program is to bring guys in that we can see that they’ll do that and they’ll have a positive impact that extends far beyond what they’re doing on the court, because if they’re teaching those guys on the court, And, and they’re stopping what they’re doing in a drill to make sure these guys are doing it right. And helping them then odds are, they’re doing the same thing off the court for those guys too, which is in my opinion, far more important than anything we can do on the court.

Mike Klinzing: [00:34:53] Is that something that you’re explicitly talking with your upperclassmen about that, Hey, we want you to [00:35:00] do. These things out on the floor, we want you to help. Correct. And to instill the culture and instill the teaching points that the coaching staff is working on. Is that something that you’re explicitly talking with your players about?

Or is that something that just because of the culture that’s been established players become indoctrinated into that culture? Because it exists or is that something that you’re still having to have conversations with guys all the time about

Anthony Komara: [00:35:25] We’re really lucky here and I can’t take credit for it and it’s just the way Coach Acuff built the program and the guys that came before me, but we just try to extend the culture and keep building it the best we can.

And that’s what we’re doing now. But, but now it’s turned into where it’s you stick out like a sore thumb if you’re not doing it. And we’ll throw that in Pre-practice when we’re talking to the guys or if one of the freshmen is having some trouble, you know, I’ll talk to, a senior or junior that he’s close to him and, [00:36:00] you know, be like, Hey, you know, it might be a good idea to help him out.

You’ve been through this. But, we’re so lucky here that, that our culture is to the point where these guys just  take it upon themselves. Like we, we’ve got a ton. We are our group right now of guys that we have there. There’s some competitive dudes and they, they really, really, really don’t want to look bad.

And what they do is they take advantage of every second they get on that court. And if someone’s not doing it right, and someone’s hurt hurting the team by not doing it right, they’re going to get on them. And it’s not going to be in an ugly way, but it’s a way out of love and love for the program and love for that, that young player, because they want, they want him to be as the best he can be.

Mike Klinzing: [00:36:49] Do you ever, or have you ever in the past been around or seen where a coaching staff has modeled? What it’s like to [00:37:00] confront a teammate, because I think that’s something when you think about it, and I’m thinking more here on the high school level, maybe more so than the college level. But one of the things that, you know, we always talk about is you want your players to be leaders and you talk about having a player led team.

You talk about some of the things that you just described, where if somebody on your team isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do on a trail, or maybe they’re not behaving the way you want them to behave off the floor. We want our players to be able to confront their teammate in a positive way and try and bring them along to the type of culture that we expect them to have.

So when you think about a high school kid, It’s a little bit more challenging. I think in that respect, they’re younger. You don’t have the same level of commitment of every player in, in the program. So how, if you were going to be going to give advice to a high school coach, how do you develop that within your team, within your players?

Is there anything you’ve ever seen, done? Anything you guys have done, or just maybe general advice you might have for a high school coach? Who’s trying to develop that kind of culture within their [00:38:00] program.

Anthony Komara: [00:38:00] Oh, sure. I’ll say this Coach Shulman and Coach Acuff was unbelievable with it too. And coach Shulman who’s here now is, I mean, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen it and really investing in the players and he’s trying to touch every part of their life.

And I think that’s one thing that’s helped me and coach I through the same thing was realized that. The more, you can touch them and be around them off the court and really invest in their life and even not regarding basketball. that takes that, that kind of shows them how to do that with their younger teammates.

Does that makes sense? So it’s kind of a, almost a trickle down effect. Like the coaches investing in me like this and showing me. That, this is what it’s like to kind of help someone out. So if I’m going to help him out, then I’m going to do it this way too. [00:39:00] I’m just kind of a leading by example a little bit.

and especially at the high school level, I’d say those, a lot of those young kids, like the ninth and 10th graders are so impressionable that. If, you know, the coach extends to a senior and kind of leaves like that by investing in him as a person, then the senior will invest in the younger guy the same way.

But I think it’s a big trickle down effect in my opinion.

Mike Klinzing: [00:39:27] No, that makes a lot of sense to me when you start thinking about people learning by example, and I think it all starts with. The head coach and the type of program that he or she wants to set up. And the example that they said, cause kids, obviously you can talk all you want about the type of culture that you’re going to build, but what the kids see is what you do.

And they don’t necessarily. Hear you, if you’re not doing the things that you’re talking about, and there’s a disconnect there, then you’re not going to get the buy in that you want, no matter what [00:40:00] level of basketball or any other sport or business that you’re running. If you’re not, if you’re not walking the walk, then people aren’t going to listen.

If you try to talk the talk and I think that’s. Clearly something that all coaches out there, it’s a great piece of advice that I think they, any coach would be well served to, you know, to follow. I wanted to ask you a little bit about going back to recruiting and thinking about. AAU versus high school basketball.

And in a sense of when you’re evaluating a player and you go and see them play in their AAU games, and then you go and see them play in their high school games. Are there different things that you’re looking for? In each setting or how do you weigh your evaluation of them during the AUC season versus your evaluation of them during the high school season?

If that makes sense,

Anthony Komara: [00:40:53] Makes total sense. And that’s a great question. And I’ll say this, like I said, you’ll hear some [00:41:00] guys talk about how, Oh, I just want to watch kids with their kids with their high school now, their AAU team or the other way around, but I don’t think one is better or worse than the other.

I think they’re both. So important to get the whole picture of a kid or of a, of a, you know, of a recruit, because they’re, so they’re such different perspective. Like to me, when I watch a kid play with his high school, I’m watching, how is he within this system? usually the kid is the best player on the team.

So how does he, how does he respond to teammates that are less talented? How does he, does he give the ball up? to, to a player that may or may not make a shot. And how does he react when the player doesn’t make the shot or does he force things? Cause he doesn’t trust that that player is going to make the shot.

how does he react to his high school coach? you know, because high school and high school, these guys were playing in a system a much more of a system for the most part than they are in a, but then on the other side and [00:42:00] AAU, that’s where you can see a lot about the kid’s character, right? So you can see how they adjust to playing with other good players.

Especially when their high school team, that they’re going to be the best player and they may be playing with less talented guys. How do they adjust to not having the ball in their hand all the time, how they adjust to only getting four or five shots as opposed to 15 or 16 in a game? how do they, how, you know, how do they adjust to, to not playing as much?

Cause you know, they may not play the whole game. So I think both are so important how they, how they adjust the coaching. Another thing I really look at with AAU games is, you know, in high school, kids are going to get there early. They’re gonna, you know, they’re going to go through their whole warmup.

They got before the game, they’re going to go and walk around and do all that. So I don’t get to see all that, but I do try to get the AAU games early. So I can see when the kid comes in the gym. does he have his shoes on early his gear on, is he getting ready to go? Is he getting loose before the game, before I’m in?

Because you know, a lot of those games, you get like three minutes to warm up and your role, [00:43:00] or does that buzzer go off and he’s kind of strolling out of the court. His shoes are on by the time there’s like two minutes on the clock. He goes out, you know, throw the couple shots up and then he’s playing.

That’s so important to me. Like I want to see how a kid prepares because how he prepares for an AAU game is probably how it’s going to prepare for practice every day. So to me, like that’s, that’s a big thing I watch. but again, I think both are so important. Like last year, last summer, Georgia and Tennessee started those high school team camps.

You go out and recruit, and those were so fun to watch kids in the summer play with their high school teams. and then, yeah, you got two weeks later, you go watch the same cause with our AAU team. So that was a really cool contrast. And I think it’s so important to have both, like, I think it’s really hard to evaluate a kid just off of one or the other, which is why we’re usually really floated off for guys.

[00:44:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:44:00] I think it’s really important, as you said to probably have both situations being viewed because when you have a coach or when you have a player who is out there and playing in a system with their high school team, like you said, they’re the best player on the floor. And conversely in AAU, they’re going to be one of five who were probably amongst the best players on their high school teams.

So you figure out how they fit in. I think you’d want to have clearly as much information as you possibly can, and then that’s going to allow you to make the best possible evaluation. How do you guys go about putting together your initial list of recruits? What does that look like when you start, when guys first appear on the radar, what does that process look like?

Anthony Komara: [00:44:45] Well, the way we find out about a lot of kids is through, through high school coaches and AAU coaches. We’ve made a concerted effort. And obviously the guys that were here before me [00:45:00] were unbelievable at it and not just been lucky enough to be in the spot and do it, concerted effort for our team camps and elite camps and all that to be really high level. so high school, so we can build relationships with high school coaches. so when they have a kid that’s coming up that, you know, that is a good player that they call us and they give us a heads up on him or, or if they play against a kid that’s really good. They’ll let us know.

So we get a lot of that. a lot of kids get added to the list by through reference through coaches, which is why it’s so important for us to keep, you know, relationships with those guys. And I think once those kids get on our list, we, you know, we’ll call everyone involved. We’ll call the coach, we’ll call parents.

We call a high school coach, whatever it takes. but another way we find kids a lot. And I know a lot of guys would probably be ashamed to say it, but we’re not as, you know, social media now. I mean, you can. There there’s less of kids all over the place and kids are now [00:46:00] everybody’s tweeting now, how they’re getting interest.

They’re getting calls from this school. Well, you see that social media has changed. The game completely changed the game. You see. Cause back in, I mean a few years ago, you didn’t know what offers kids had. And now that now you can go to their Twitter and you see literally everything they do. And you find out a lot about a kid through their, through their Twitter than you would normally.

I mean, it’s crazy. It’s crazy how much that changed. Yeah.

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:33] I would have to think that the social media side of it, there’s so many different ways that you can look at it and clearly you can be so positive and yet it can also have a dark side in some ways, but I think if you use it correctly, both as a high school player, a high school recruit, and then as a college player, as a college coach, a college program, there’s so many positives that can come from it, just because again, it allows everybody to be [00:47:00] so interconnected and.

And it gets you more exposure if you’re a player and you’re doing good things and you’re putting good things on there, I’m sure that your coaching staff is not the only one that’s out there looking at what they can find on social media.

Anthony Komara: [00:47:14] For sure. No, everybody’s doing it. And, and I’ve had parents of kids that aren’t getting recruited there.

You know, they’ll say, you know, how can. How can we get more exposure? How can we start getting recruited and get so, and so’s name out there and I’ll go to their social media and they don’t have a highlight tape or something like if you don’t, honestly, if you don’t have a highlight tape on your Twitter account right now as a player you’re really behind because I that’s what I mean.

That’s when I pull up a thing or a kid follows me, And I look at it, I’m looking at their highlights. If I want to see if the kid can play. And if you don’t have highlights, I’m like, I don’t really know what the basis and are. There’s so many guys, [00:48:00] like there are so many good players out there and there’s so many kids that you’ve got to do something to stand out and catch our eye or somebody’s eye. That’s going to give you an opportunity because there’s so many kids, it’s crazy how there’s so many good players, like what do you do that separates you? And that’s just, we do the same thing. And as a coach, what do I do to separate to me?

You know, anybody that wants to be good at their craft and their passion and what they do, you’ve got to do what separates you then you got to know it and you’ve got to be able to market it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:32] Since you started, do you think the skill level of players. And let’s forget about the feel part of it that we talked about earlier, just from a skill standpoint, do you think the players today are more skilled?

Than they were 10 years ago, just generally across the board. Like when you go and watch an AAU tournament or you go and watch a high school game, would you say the players across the board are more skilled in terms of being able to handle the ball and shoot it than they were 10 years ago?

Anthony Komara: [00:48:57] Yes, I would say [00:49:00] so.

Just strictly, because of the fact that, that bigs play like guards now, as opposed to what they did 10 years ago. so you’ve got. No, I I’d say 20 to 30% of the pool of players that maybe used to not be able to shoot or would never dribble or never step outside of the arc. They all do that now. So that’s a huge chunk of that pool of players that are using skills that they never had or  that group never had before.

So that’s a big increase to me in the skill. Just the fact that there’s more players doing more and I think. You used to be able to get away with being a guard and not being able to shoot, like, cause you could drive it and you can do other things. Now. I feel like everybody there’s such a huge emphasis on shooting now.

God, no, there is for us. that every kid has worked to expand that part of their game. I mean, every kid I’ve talked to [00:50:00] is always talking about, yeah, I’m trying to get more consistent from three or I’m trying to get better at making deeper three so I can space the floor better. Like they all say that even the ones that can shoot.

So I, I would say that I do think that that the skill level is higher now. if nothing else, but for the, the mere fact that more, more players are skilled now than there were then, right?

Mike Klinzing: [00:50:23] That makes total sense to me. Has that made identifying recruits or deciding who to offer. Easier or harder in that the pool is deeper.

Are they are more players, more evenly skilled? If that makes any sense, just has it made it easier or harder to recruit because of that increase in skill level?

Anthony Komara: [00:50:47] A little bit of both. I think it’s made it easier because they’re there. The pool is bigger and there’s more guys, You know, there’s more, especially big.

Like that’s always been the hardest position for, or five and, [00:51:00] And I think now with kids, you know, everybody being able to step out and shoot it for the most part, it’s made it easier to, to find more kids that kind of fit that. Now dive in deeper. Do they fit are they do have the right characteristics kind of a different conversation.

But, as far as that goes, I’d say it’s easier just because there’s more, but. You know, there’s with kids being more skilled. Now there’s the schools that are higher than us. That take chances on them. The kids that are skilled and underdeveloped a little bit, which is what we’ve made a living on. you know, with more and more teams playing like this and the way that we play, they’re kind of taking kids from, from our mold that we recruit from instead of just taking, you know, it wasn’t too long ago that if you were, if you were a low major division one. If a kid was 6-10 and really athletic, you’re taking a chance on it, no matter what. And now it’s, they’re kind of taking guys that are in our mold where, Oh, this guy’s like six, [00:52:00] nine, and can really shoot it. Like, let’s see how he develops. So it’s kinda, it’s been a little bit of both, but overall I’d say it’s been, it’s made it easier cause we can find more guys.

Mike Klinzing: [00:52:10] Yeah, the pool is deeper. Maybe more difficult to figure out which players in that pool. Fit what you’re trying to do. And then making sure that you get the right guys in there, as you said right off the top. So we just went on about a one hour tangent, which is good. That was a lot of fun to do that. Let’s work our way back to how you got into coaching.

And so obviously your dad had a history with coach and basketball with his AAU program. So was coaching something that you always knew that you wanted to do when you were done playing? Or when did coaching come on your radar as something that you thought, Hey, maybe this is what I want to do for my career?

Anthony Komara: [00:52:49] Well, I always loved playing. I was the kid that, you know, 99% of kids always think they’re better than they are. And I [00:53:00] thought it was really good. Not, you know, I thought I was going to play. High level in college and then do all that after. so obviously I was like, Oh, I’m playing, you know, I’m really good.

And wanting to do all that. And I was not that good. Now, looking back, I know that, but I’d say. Probably like midway through high school was when I started thinking about it. And then when I got to college, that’s when I really knew it’s what I wanted to do. But I played for a coach and my sophomore year of high school that I went to a really big high school here in Huntsville.

And, and. For some reason that year there weren’t enough. There weren’t a ton of basketball coaches at the school. So we, we had a JV coach that was, that he, he was a baseball coach, but he helped out with basketball cause they needed a JV coach. So I mean, this. He never played basketball. Wasn’t basketball guy, but he [00:54:00] just was doing a job and he ended up being one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever played for because he was such a real, he was such a good leader of men.

And that’s, you know, as a 10th grader, that’s so important to be around good people. And guys that are going to lead you and guide you and mold you. And you cause you’re so impressionable and he came in and he was on it and he sat down with me and a couple other guys and he was like, you know, I, I really, you guys know the offense better than I do, you know, the schematic stuff better than I do.

So this is a chance for you guys to kind of coach this team and, and, and see how far you can take it. And, that really opened my eyes to where, Oh, wow. I thought I can be a leader. And it enabled me to lead in and it brought out qualities in me that I didn’t knew. I didn’t know I had. And, and that was really when I first started realizing like, Hey, this could be, this could be kind of fun.

Like this is, this is really cool. And obviously I was playing at the time and still wanted to pursue that. but that, and he still, to this day, he’s a [00:55:00] great friend of mine. I don’t think I even realized at the time of the impact he was having on my life. Cause that kinda put me in a different direction and made me realize how, how cool it was to be able to lead lead people and, especially using that platform in basketball.

So that’s really where I started realizing it. And then I got into college and, You know, kind of wanted to play, wanted to walk on, thought I was good, probably wasn’t good enough to do that. And, kinda went in a different direction of wanting to coach and getting that lined up for after college and it worked out, it couldn’t have worked out better.

Mike Klinzing: [00:55:36] So you ended up going to college at Auburn and getting an opportunity to work with the men’s basketball program there. So talk a little bit about how that happened. Maybe what the process was for you getting involved in it. And then what were some of the things that you did learn as a part of the staff there at Auburn?

Anthony Komara: [00:55:53] Right. So I, my freshman year, I. one of the walk on, ended up [00:56:00] not doing that, went out there and it was Dave Lebo. He was still there at the time and went and met with his dad. And he was like, well, you want it? And I told him, I wanted to get into coaching. And he was like, well, if you want to get into coaching, you can kinda, you can come in here and work with our video coordinator.

And, at the time, you know, coordinator then was a lot different than being a video coordinator now. I mean, we were. We were FedExing game tape. And, you know, I mean, it was like VCR stuff. Like I don’t even, they weren’t even DVDs going on in there and I was in the film room nonstop all day for a whole year.

And that was an experience that  I didn’t know. I had never seen that side of it. So that was really cool to me. And, so I kind of went through that and, and ended up after that year, just kind of going to college, finishing that, finishing that up for the next three years. But, that was, that was kind of where I got started and coach [00:57:00] Livo, Was was great.

I mean, I didn’t see him much, but, but no, it was, it was really cool and got started that way. And then the video room and I was FedExing stuff all over the country and helping the video coordinator make highlight tapes and doing all that. I mean, it was, it was just me and him in there and it was, it was really cool, but that was my first experience with college coaching.

And when I was like, okay, I could see myself doing this and, And got really lucky right out of college to get a volunteer spot here with coach Heiko. And, and the rest is kinda history, just kind of worked while I waited and, and, moved up, you know, through the, through the seven years I’ve been here and now being in the full time spot, it’s been, it’s been an awesome journey and I wouldn’t trade one second of it for anything.

Mike Klinzing: [00:57:46] All right. So talk a little bit about that process of, cause I think this is something that’s relevant for especially young coaches. When you start talking about how do you get into the business? How do you get your breaks and what do you have to do? And so talk a little bit about how [00:58:00] you first got the opportunity to be a volunteer, and then how you slowly worked your way up the ladder of the coaching staff.

Just explain a little bit of a process. What are some things that you think were key in your own development as a coach that enabled you? To continue to move up because obviously if you’re not going to doing a good job, you’re not going to get that opportunity. So talk about what you think you did well along those steps that have enabled you to continue advancing in your career.

Anthony Komara: [00:58:31] Well, first of all, I’d say getting in is probably the hardest part. I mean, we just hired a coach this year, in our, in that same spot that I, that I filled in my first year and we had. Over 200 applicants for the job. I mean, there’s so many guys that wanted to want to get into college coaching.

I’m like that can’t be overstated that is guys would [00:59:00] kill to get into it. And I was lucky that number one, I grew up in Huntsville, number two, I was going to coach S camps for when I was a little kid and he knew me. so that was kinda my end and, and he was always great to me. And I always looked up to him and, and I just went to him and I was like, coach shot, you know, do you have anything? And he’s like, I don’t have anything paid. but we did just have a volunteer leave and take another job. so if you want to, if you want to, you know, come and hang around and, You know, it’d be a sponge for a year and see if that’s something you’d want to do and, and just work and be here all the time.

And then, yeah, come on. We’d love to have you. And I didn’t realize at the time that at that exact moment, he changed my life and changed the trajectory of my life. but then I just started showing up and I think honestly, just showing up and being there and being the last guy to leave every day.

You can, [01:00:00] you can get a lot done and, and just having the attitude that there’s no job too big or too small. and I know that sounds cliche, but that that’s how you do it. I mean, you just grind and you learn and you be a sponge and you you’re in, you’re in meetings and you listen more than you talk. And, and I mean, I sat through so many meetings where I didn’t say a word, but I was just like looking around watching and taking notes and.

That’s it like, that’s the key, you know, we tell our guys, our players all the time, like the secret is there is no secret it’s in the work. but that’s the same way with coaching. I mean, there’s not like there. Yes. I’m sure these guys are a lot of these guys are geniuses and they, and they’re at a different brain level than all of us.

I’m sure. But like for 99% of us that work really hard. and just be there and build relationships, build relationships with players, be likable, be personable, and just help in any way you can. Like if you have [01:01:00] a servant attitude, you’ll, you’ll find a way to move up. And, and I was fortunate enough to where after my first year, both paid assistants left and did other things, which they were great guys. And, and I still have relationship with those guys today. And then, so I moved up one spot there and we hired another full time guy and the, and the next spot. So then those four years, four years there, and I was just working and working and working and trying to improve and understand everything and recruit and get experience.

And then, you know, one day he got a job, he went, he ended up getting an assistant job at Liberty. So one day he’s gone and coach Jacob, you know, he looks at me and he goes, alright, you’re up? So, and then now it’s then going into my third year in this spot and it’s just been, it’s been an awesome process.

There’s times where you’re not making, you’re making little to no money and you’re, [01:02:00] you know, you’re kind of questioning things. you know how long you can do it like that. But honestly, those thoughts never really entered my brain because I was a college coach. And I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.

And I still do. I think it’s the best job in the world. I mean, it’s fun. You get to impact kids every day and, and coach basketball and how many people can say that.  

Mike Klinzing: [01:02:22] I think your story is one that resonates with a lot of coaches who are in the college game. And it’s something that I think, you know, if you’re in the profession, you realize that it’s a game of paying your dues.

And I think if you’re in the general public, you don’t necessarily realize that that’s the case. You see. The mega star coaches that are making millions of dollars and everybody thinks that’s what coaching college basketball is. Whereas the reality is your story is the far more common one where you go on and you work.

And a lot of times you work for nothing or next to nothing for a lot [01:03:00] of years before you get an opportunity. And I think you hit on it really well. You said. You got to come early, you got to stay late. You got to do things that are asked of you, but then you gotta do things that aren’t asked of you. And if you do that and you keep working and you do the best job that you possibly can.

In the job that you’re in, then that’s going to afford you another opportunity. We had Sean McDonnell on who he was a coach at case Western reserve here in Cleveland for a while. And now he’s coaching at a local high school university school and his advice. And I think it’s kind of apropos and I’d never heard it said quite this way.

And I think he actually got it from maybe coach Dave Paulson was be willing to work for. No money for as long as you can and be willing to move at the drop of a hat. And I think those are two things that when you start thinking about how do you break into the business? A lot of times you do, you have to be willing to work for free, and then what opportunities come, you have to be willing to.

Go and find those [01:04:00] opportunities, obviously for you worked out really well because of your connection there at Huntsville. And just everything that has happened has allowed you to have an opportunity to kind of be there in your hometown. It doesn’t always work that way for everybody. I think that that path you just described as one that is, is fairly common in that you have the young guy that wants to get into coaching and you end up.

Working for next to nothing. And then slowly over time working your way up. So when you think back to that first year and you’re getting into it for the first time, was there anything about. What you were doing that surprised you that maybe you hadn’t learned in the video room at Auburn? Something that the staff was doing, something that they were doing differently at Huntsville.

Just, just maybe describe what was something that was interesting to you. Something that you didn’t maybe realize that coach has spent so much time doing.

Anthony Komara: [01:04:55] I would say, I always knew how, how big of a [01:05:00] part, like the recruiting was like, I knew that was a huge part of that, which, I mean, it’s a huge part of the job.

I would say, scouting, which I, you know, the levels of, I played at like, we scouted some, but the level of scouting and that was still the time where you’d have to exchange game tape and do all that. Like, that was a big part of my job that even my first year of Huntsville was doing some stuff like that, breaking down film.

And, we did it in I movie and I’m so thankful that that’s a thing. But, but I think the biggest surprise to me there was that the level of, But the level of emphasis on scouting and how they got, I mean, it was, it was, it was eye opening and it was really cool to see that. I mean, it was, you feel really big time when you go from, you know, not, not realizing how much goes into it to that.

And it’s kind of funny now. With Coach Shulman and  we’ve kind of gone away. We don’t scout as much [01:06:00] anymore. And, and that’s been really cool to see that side of it at the college level too. But, the, now that was, that was eye opening to me. And, just how much you’re around your players and get to get to be around the guys and, man being around those dudes, it energizes you and it’s a lot of fun and that was really cool to me too.

but. But now it was everything that year was I opening. I was just like a wide eyed dude. That was just, just looking around, taking in everything I could take in. I mean, it was. It was, it was remarkable. I’ll say that. And I learned a lot now I’ve learned a lot every year. I’ve learned more this past year than I’ve ever learned.

I mean, it’s, if you’re not, if you’re not a lifelong learner, then like, you know, coach probably the best quote I’ve ever heard from Coach Acuff, which there are many. but he says a lot. He says there’s two types of coaches, those that are humble. And those that are about to be. I think that is so true.

I mean, when you think you’ve got to figure it out,  I think you’re in trouble and just being willing to learn. no matter how far into it you get it’s that’s everything.

Mike Klinzing: [01:07:14] Alright, so what’s something you learned this year.

Anthony Komara: [01:07:17] Oh, wow. learned a lot more about, About end game coaching, offensively calling plays.

It was the first time I got to do that. so that was, that was a lesson, every single game. got to do a lot more with, with budgets and fundraising and all that this year. And that was, that was cool too. Cause that was a side of it. I hadn’t, I hadn’t dealt with a whole lot before. And I mean that, that was.

Really the calling plays in game is there’s a difference in that new and in practice when you got the, you got the blue team and you’re playing against the light team when you’re, when you’re drawing stuff up and, and tied out with 10 seconds left, that’s a [01:08:00] little, little different level of pressure. But, but no, that was really cool.

And you learn through it as you go. And we made changes throughout the year and, you just gotta. the biggest thing I learned the overarching, lesson, and that was just be flexible. Just be flexible and just be willing to change if something’s not working. Cause there were many, many times this year, the thing is that stuff we did, wasn’t working, but we changed it and we fixed it and we ended up having an unbelievable year.

Mike Klinzing: [01:08:27] How do you go about taking that X’s and O’s side of it. And obviously you spend a lot of time there as a coach trying to figure that out, especially if you’re functioning as the offensive coordinator, you’re putting a lot of times. And then just figuring that piece of it out. How do you then balance that with the need, the desire to build relationships with the guys on the team?

How do you guys, as a staff go about making sure that you’re making those connections? Clearly, one of the things is you’re having conversations with them daily on an informal basis, but is there anything that you do. [01:09:00] More formally as a staff to help try to cement those relationships, or do you think it really is truly about the day to day interaction?

Anthony Komara: [01:09:07] I think it’s day to day, breakfast by breakfast, lunch by lunch, pre practice by practice, bus ride by bus ride. I think it’s every single day. I’m just making an effort. And, like one thing that, that me and our other assistants do, which now we can’t because of the way things are with, with COVID and everything.

But one thing we did last year was we would go eat lunch with the guys at the cafe every day, when we didn’t have a lunch meeting or something with, with, with someone else. But I mean, most days like we would go we’d walk. Our campus is set up to where our cat, is. You know, a five minute walk from our gym.

So our we’d have four or five guys every day that we’d come to the gym and we walk over and when would eat lunch together. And I mean, when you spend that much time with people, you just talk to them and you get to know them and you peel back layers and you get close. And, I [01:10:00] think, I think that’s where it’s at is you build trust that way more so than on the coach.

Listen to me. you know, I just. That that’s what was so that’s, what’s so cool about our guys here and it goes back to the recruiting piece. Another thing I swear by and coach Jacob was the one who instilled this in me, as well as, get guys that you’re willing to lose with. I mean, there are many a time and, and we, we, we lost games and, you know, we sat over there and coach, I would say, I mean, I’d rather, I’d rather be getting on this bus with, even after a loss and getting on that bus.

And, and I’ve said that too, and I think that’s so important. Like you guys, you gotta get guys, you want to be around. I mean, when you have guys  that you don’t. You know what I mean?

Mike Klinzing: [01:10:56] I know exactly what you mean. You don’t have to explain it any further. I think any coach [01:11:00] who’s been in the business for a long time, you definitely can harken back to a team or a small group of kids on a particular team that you were just like, yeah, it wasn’t a lot of fun to go into practice every day with those guys.

It wasn’t a lot of fun to go to war with them every single night when you were playing games. And I think that. That makes it tough. And to your point, it’s also possible, again, nobody likes to lose, but it is possible to have a team that you really enjoy coaching that maybe doesn’t have best record that you’ve ever had as a coach, simply because you like the players and they’re coachable and they’re hard working and they’re good kids and you like having conversations with them.

And that speaks a lot to. The recruiting, like you talked about is making sure that you bring in the right kind of guys clearly at the high school level, you don’t have necessarily the opportunity to do that. You kind of got to play the hand. You’re dealt by the same token. I think as a high school coach or as a college coach, a lot of what ends [01:12:00] up happening within your program is determined by the kind of culture that you’ve set up.

And sometimes you could get guys who might be borderline in one environment, but when they come into a good environment, You can push them over the edge and get them to where they need, where you need them to be and help them along and, you know, help them develop. And I think there’s something to be said for that too, but you’re definitely a hundred percent, right.

That you want to make sure that the guys that you’re going to spend a lot of time with every single day that you like spending time with them. Because when you run into a season or a team that you don’t feel that way about, it could be a very, very long, a very long and trying season. Let’s put it that way.

Anthony Komara: [01:12:40] Well and here’s the thing. And even if you got a really, really talented kid that you don’t love being around, here’s the thing like he’s going to be someone else’s problem, 30 nights a year when he puts on that uniform for you. And he may be really good, but he’s your problem every other night, about a year.

And I [01:13:00] think that that’s so, that’s so true. I think it goes along the way. When you have kids out there that will do exactly what you tell, what you ask them to do. bill block out every single time. the switch on they’re supposed to switch, they will, they’ll know every coverage they’ll know every read.

they’ll run every play. They may not make a shot, but they’re gonna do what they’re supposed to do. And I, I mean, I’ll say this coach, I’ve always said if he had 10 minutes or game with the team that he had never been around before the what, what would he work on? You said boxing out. Like if you can, if you box out and you can rebound, you got a chance to win in a game most times.

I think that’s really true too. So, you got a bunch of dudes that’ll, that’ll run through a wall for you and, and we’ll block out every time he ask him to, we get we’ll have a chance to win. Yeah.

Mike Klinzing: [01:13:46] It’s amazing how simple the game can be sometimes, right?

Anthony Komara: [01:13:49] Yeah, no doubt. Absolutely. You can get it.

Mike Klinzing: [01:13:51]  You can make it as sophisticated as you want.

And yet there’s a lot of universal truth that. A lot of games come down to that. If you just can focus on [01:14:00] these couple things and really make sure that guys are doing those things, a lot of times you can have a ton of success just by focusing on those simple things. You just kind of goes back to sort of the whole theme of our conversation.

Yeah. I think it speaks to the fact of, you talked about when you’re recruiting, if you recruit in the right guys that. Have the fit have a fit with your program and they have a feel for the game. Then you’re going to be in pretty good shape when it comes to having good relationships when it comes to having the type of players that you want to put on the floor night in and night out.

And that’s really how you end up with having a successful program. Like you guys have been able to have there at Huntsville for a number of years. So I want to wrap up Anthony by asking you kind of a two part question that is. Part one is what, when you look forward both in your career and what you’re doing there, right?

Huntsville, what’s the biggest challenge that you see that you have in front of you. And then I can guess the answer to this next question or second part of it, which is what’s the biggest joy that you get from. Coaching [01:15:00] at the university of Alabama, Huntsville specifically. And then just in general, what do you love about coaching?

So your biggest challenge and then your biggest joy.

Anthony Komara: [01:15:07] Okay. biggest challenge I would say is just, there are so many good coaches out there. There’s so many great coaches out there. and there’s so many coaches out there that are doing the right things and they’re doing it the right way. there’s a lot of competition.

And I think that’s why it’s so important to build relationships and do what, whatever I can do or whatever we can do to, to have an advantage. and I think that’s so important just because I think the challenge is there’s competition. There’s really, really good coaches out there. and, and there’s a lot of coaches that are really good people and it’s, And that that makes it a great profession, but that also makes it a really tough profession to get ahead in and, and keep moving ahead.

And, so I think, I would say that’s the challenge and the joy of being here at UAH. It’s simple. I mean, we’re, I can’t overstate this. I [01:16:00] know I’ve talked about it already tonight, but we have unbelievable kids, unbelievable. Young men and, and here we’ve got. We’ve got unbelievable community support. it’s, it’s special here.

And we, I mean, we out drew, I think 88 or 90, division one schools on average last year, and we’re at the D two level and you don’t, you don’t get that just anywhere. so, it’s, it’s just a special place and we’ve got special people that work here. And coach told me that my first day working at UHC was like, I’m telling you, I’m in coaching.

It’s all about people. It’s not about X’s. And O’s, it’s all about investing in people. And I still think that’s so true today. but, and that goes into my joy. The biggest joy being a coach is getting to impact lives, and having a platform. And, I just think those of us that get the coach, and I know you guys would agree, just getting to impact a young person’s life.

Cause, I would [01:17:00] argue one of the most important jobs that we have in our society, especially today. And, it’s just not one that I take for granted. And I think it’s one that we all should, should cherish and be thankful for because it’s, we get to do something special every single day impacting these and these kids.

Mike Klinzing: [01:17:17] Absolutely. That’s good stuff. And I think that when you think about what coaching really is about, I think that’s what it comes down to is being able to have a positive impact on. The kids that you touch every single day, and then being able to do it through the game of basketball, which we all love just makes it doubly special.

And there’s nothing better. There’s nothing better than being able to have that impact. And so often, as I’ve said, numerous times, you don’t even know that impact until 15, 20 years down the road. When you see where your players end up with in society, where they end up in society. And when they call you, when they’re getting married or they get a new job or they have children or whatever, it might be that.

Really is when you know that you’ve had the success and you’ve had an impact on them. And that’s. [01:18:00] That’s what really makes coaching special. And, I just want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule tonight to jump out with us. And it’s been a pleasure. You did a great job and you were on with the webinar.

I thought it was fantastic. And then getting a chance to kind of dig into your story and go back and talk about all the things that you guys are doing there with the program at Alabama, Huntsville and coach Schulman has been. One of our biggest supporters. And so we want to thank you and thank him for everything that you guys have done to support us here at the hoop heads pod.

And before we get out, I want to give you a chance to share how people can reach out and get it, touch it. You find out more about you and the basketball program at UAH.

Anthony Komara: [01:18:41] Anybody is more than welcome to reach out. my email is  aek0008@uah.edu. My Twitter handle is @CoachKomara either way, anybody wants to reach out if you’re a coach and you want to just talk hoops or talk anything I’d [01:19:00] love to hear from you.

but I think that’s, that’s a huge part of what we do is sharing and, and, and building relationships. I think that’s the biggest thing in our profession that we need to keep doing and keep moving forward. cause if you’re not sharing and helping other guys out, I don’t know what, I think that’s a big reason that I’m in it.

So if anybody. Wants to reach out, feel free and I’ll hit you right back. And, and we’ll, and we’ll go from there, but I really, really appreciate you guys having me on, I had a great time, and, love what you guys are doing and, and you guys, Penn kind of paying it forward, and moving our game forward.

And that it’s fun to watch and it’s really special to see. And I appreciate you letting me be a small part of it.

Mike Klinzing: [01:19:37] Absolutely. We appreciate it. certainly, we’re excited to do what we do and we feel like whatever small part we can do and trying to advance the game and make it better for coaches and players and parents, anybody out there who’s listening to us.

That’s what we’re going to try to do. And it only happens when we get guys like yourself to come on and share their stories and share what they’re doing too. Make themselves make the [01:20:00] coaching profession a better place for all of us. So again, I can’t thank you enough, Anthony, for joining us tonight.

We really appreciate it. And to everyone out there, thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.

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